We are driving up and down the Las Vegas strip, and people on the sidewalk are hooting and screaming at us to rev the motor of the sports car we’re piloting. I oblige them and cheering ensues. I’m not even piloting European metal, just the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
Well, I shouldn’t say “just.” The latest Corvette looks pretty exotic thanks to its transition to a mid-engine layout. While the past ’Vette managed to exceed expectations with its front-engine layout, the change here is to rewrite expectations and align the potential of the new vehicle with the likes of an exotic supercar. But it may have missed the mark in a few ways.
A Highlight Reel Without the Fancy Plays
Of course, the engine and layout of the vehicle are highlights. The heart of the car is a 6.2-litre V8 engine, with 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. It sounds fantastic (ask the fans on the Vegas strip) and even more so with the performance exhaust that is included in the Z51 Track Package (which also bumps up both the horsepower and torque by five.) This is mated with a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. While the Corvette faithful may mourn the loss of the manual, they’ll still be impressed with the speed offered by the new model.
It reaches highway speeds in under three seconds, and the Corvette has a top speed of 312 km/h. While the car feels great from a standstill and will snap your head back, it has a dramatically different feel at speed and on the track.
On the road, you aren’t rewarded with much thrust when you put your foot down. Perhaps the Corvette’s higher gears are too tall, but it doesn’t feel as exciting as it could. If anything, the vehicle feels built for grand touring, which doesn’t jibe with the trend of new performance-minded layouts.
Stable but Blah
Those looking to hit the track will want the Z51 option box ticked. It adds an electronic limited-slip differential, performance tires, enhanced brakes, and magnetic ride control. This gives the driver more confidence and provides a feeling of safety despite the speed.
A mid-engine car is designed to have a neutral balance to enable better handling and cornering compared to a front-engine vehicle. That balance is important, meaning you can get in and drive quickly without worrying about the vehicle biting back. The Corvette mostly achieves this, responding quickly and naturally. It pivots around the driver with ease.
Much of this has to do with the eLSD. Most limited-slip differentials activate with the throttle, directing power to the wheel with more traction, but the Corvette’s eLSD also supports the driver during off-throttle applications, when the weight of the vehicle can dramatically shift from the rear to the front. This adds stability, which is essential for drivers who aren’t use to the mid-engine layout.
However, there is a limit to the way the car rotates and attacks corners. On the track, this is noticeable, as the vehicle can protest going into turns, not rotating as much as I wanted it to. While the vehicle has a better centre of gravity, there are moments where you can be caught with understeer. With more practice and focus, it’s possible to set a blazing time in the Corvette, but this sucks away the emotional aspect that a sports car like this should offer. There should be times where the car raises your pulse, where it feels a bit unhinged and that you, the driver are caressing it toward a speedy lap time. Unfortunately, this Corvette feels a bit sterile.
High-Tech Interior, but Not High End
Those familiar with Porsches will likely find the cabin unrefined and a bit cluttered. A row of buttons on a panel that separates the seats looks and feels like an afterthought.
On the other hand, there are smart additions here, including a digital gauge cluster, head-up display, and a rear-view video feed in the mirror that solves poor visibility. The 2LT model also has an embedded front-facing camera that will record times on the track or do double duty as a dash camera.
The Flashy Looks Without the Pizzaz
On paper, the Corvette looks to scare the exotics. It has a gorgeous mid-engine design, advanced suspension system, a quick-shifting transmission, and a 0-100 time of three seconds. In the process, however, the vehicle lost a bit of its thrilling factor. It feels safe and capable now, rather than outright exhilarating.
While the new model is good, the Corvette has to be something truly special to compete with the likes of Porsche or other exotics. Thanks to the foundation in this new layout, that feeling will certainly arrive in the future with a higher performance trim level, but buyers looking for the same feeling in a Corvette as a European sports car will be left cold.
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